During the 2013 baseball season, a narrative repeated itself over and over, much to Louisa’s chagrin.
The opposing team would take a small lead, Louisa would clamber their way back before eventually failing to finish the comeback.
Take your pick: a 2-4 loss to Western Albemarle, a 6-7 defeat to Monticello or a 0-1 heartbreaker against Western Albemarle. The list goes on.
“We just couldn’t get timely hits when we needed them,” Louisa manager Kevin Fisher said.
In their 4-16 season, the Lions lost six games by two runs or less. In five games, they failed to even score a run.
Heading into the 2014 season, Fisher isn’t coming up with some complex approach. He knows his Jefferson District championship teams of 2008 and 2010 succeeded thanks to a mastering of the fundamentals.
In 2014, it’s back to the basics for Louisa. They’ve also tried to remove the team’s toughest opponent last season from this year’s schedule.
“Our main strategy this season is not to beat ourselves,” Fisher said. “We need to make the routine plays, have good sound pitching and make a timely hit when we need one.”
The good news for the Lions is they have solid hitters returning to the diamond this season. Senior Christian Buckler, whose batting average of .382 led the team last year, is back, and he will likely contribute as one of the team’s top pitchers as well. Buckler will be joined by the bats of fellow senior Alex Fletcher (.293) and junior catcher Cameron Stanley (.278) as Louisa looks to rejuvenate themselves on the offensive side of the plate.
But perhaps Louisa’s best bet for offensive production falls on the swing of sophomore and rising star Jake Talley. As the only freshman to make the varsity team last year, Talley’s batting average of .373 was one of the best in the district. This past summer, Talley was selected to participate in the nationally televised Triple Crown U.S. Baseball Championship All-Star game, solidifying his position as one of the best young sluggers in the country.
And though he’s still one of the youngest players on the team this season, Talley figures to be a central figure in a locker room looking for a new direction.
“I’m starting to grow into the role of a leader a little bit more,” Talley said. “Some of the guys coming up this year I’ll be able to show the ropes a little bit, about how it’s done up here on varsity.”
How he motivates his teammates could be key. Looking over his lineup, Fisher said it will be up to the group as a whole to determine the team’s success this upcoming season. It will be solidarity, not superstars, that will kick start the team to an improved record.
“I expect all of them to step up and kind of push each other,” Fisher said. “There’s no one big standout. It’s just one group of kids that have one goal, and that is to have a successful season and take this program where they want it to be.”
Pertaining to the mound, Fisher said his group of pitchers will be the unit that surprises fans the most this season. Southpaw senior Thomas Dunnavant, who was credited for two of the team’s four wins last season, will be considered the team’s ace in 2014. Last year, he had a 3.07 ERA, and if his math adds up, that number will be cut in half this season.
To read the entire story, see the March 13 edition of The Central Virginian.